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Gabriela Pereira: Turning Scattered Light Bulbs Into Lasers

One in four college students struggle with some diagnosable form of mental illness. It is an issue that a lot of us hold close to our heart and have been affected by in some way. Even though the effects of mental illness reach far and wide, that doesn’t mean it has to hold you back from carrying out your dream. That’s exactly the mindset that entrepreneur and author Gabriela Pereira has had towards her career.


Pereira is the founder of DIY MFA, a company with various resources to help participants receive a do-it-yourself version of a Masters degree in writing. Her mission is to “empower writers, artists, and other creatives to take an entrepreneurial approach to their education and professional growth.” DIY MFA members gain access to the Starter Kit, which includes a 2-week mini course, worksheets, and bi-weekly newsletters for writing inspiration. Pereira’s company has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, Bustle, and more. She is also the host of DIY MFA Radio and she is a published author.


In June 2018 Pereira had a very transparent and personal interview with Forbes that highlighted how her struggle with bipolar disorder actually inspired her to start DIY MFA. She wanted people to understand that “writing is an act of service and that as writers it is our responsibility to use our words for the greater good.” Before starting her own company, she worked as a top designer at a toy company where she eventually had to take a medical leave due to her mental illness. Ten years after her leave, she made DIY MFA a major success, published her own book, and was traveling across the country to speak at major conferences. When President Trump was elected into office, her primarily liberal fan base was shook. However, she took this opportunity to speak out about how she deals with her own fears from bipolar disorder in the hopes of helping others deal with their fears related to the election.


Pereira made it clear in her Forbes interview that although bipolar disorder affects her every day, it’s not going to hold her back in her career. She said, “Early on, I decided I would not let my illness define my success or my identity.” She applies her methods of coping with bipolar disorder to her business. According to Pereira, “The ‘interpersonal effectiveness’ techniques help me negotiate successful deals. The ‘emotion regulation’ skills help me manage my frustration when I have to work with difficult people. And when something in the business goes wrong, the ‘distress tolerance’ skills help me recenter myself.” Living with this mental illness has helped her become resilient and it has pushed her to achieve her success.


Gabriela Pereira is a great example of someone who embodies perseverance, hope, and ambition. These are all characteristics that anyone that is hoping to become an entrepreneur should have. She channels her struggles with mental illness to drive her business and everyday life. Mental illness doesn’t have to be something that holds you back from doing what you want to do because as Pereira says, “Constraints force us to focus our efforts and be more creative in our problem-solving. Embracing constraints is especially important in creative or entrepreneurial fields, where the tendency is to come up with a million ideas and be all over the place. When we learn to work within our limitations, we can turn those scattered light bulbs into lasers.”

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